Texas State Bobcats

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#93 Texas State Bobcats





HEAD COACH: Dennis Franchione, 36-34 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jeff Conway, Mike Schultz | DEF. COORDINATOR: John Thompson

Despite picking up seven wins, Texas State did not receive a bowl invite last season. The Bobcats could be in the same position in 2015, as Dennis Franchione welcomes back 12 starters, including his key playmakers on offense. If the offense can carry the team early and the defense finds it footing, Texas State could force its way into the bowl conversation this season.

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Previewing Texas State’s Offense for 2015

A year removed from one of the biggest changes Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione has made during his second stint in San Marcos, the Bobcats are in a much better position on offense. Texas State’s switch to an up-tempo attack last season paid dividends for the Bobcats, who improved in most statistical categories. Texas State averaged 77 plays per game last season (up from 64 in 2013), racked up 33.8 points per game (23.9 in 2013) and amassed 464.3 yards of total offense per game (326.3 in 2013). “The balance we had was great,” Franchione says. “I felt like the plan we devised in the offseason was a good one. The numbers seem to bear that out.”

With junior quarterback Tyler Jones and senior tailback Robert Lowe back in the fold, Texas State could be poised to take another leap on offense. What could hold the Bobcats back this season, however, are some unknowns, especially at wide receiver.

Senior slot receiver C.J. Best turned in a breakthrough campaign last season, but Texas State needs more from wideouts Brandon Smith, Demun Mercer and Jafus Gaines to become an elite offense in the Sun Belt. 

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing Texas State’s Defense for 2015

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 National College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 128 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

The Bobcats experienced just as much upheaval — if not more — on this side of the ball last season as John Thompson brought a new scheme to Franchione’s team. While this season will mark Year 2 under Thompson, Texas State experienced plenty of turnover in the offseason: Thompson lost his four best defenders, including linebacker David Mayo, who was named the Sun Belt’s Defensive Player of the Year.

If the Bobcats are going to find a groove, it will likely come down to the front seven. Texas State has targeted its defensive line as an area it must strengthen to compete against the likes of Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and UL Lafayette. With that in mind, the Bobcats will look for the emergence of sophomore Jeff Banks and junior Roosevelt Pearson as edge rushers and senior Mershad Dillon as a run stopper in the middle.

Even so, Texas State could be in line for an uphill battle on defense, especially early in the season, as Thompson tries to find the right mix of players. The Bobcats have to find someone to replace Mayo, which figures to be a difficult task when you consider that the linebacker had a monster season despite not having a consistent running mate alongside him to provide support. 

Previewing Texas State’s Specialists for 2015

A stellar campaign from kicker/punter Will Johnson notwithstanding, special teams were a mess for Texas State last season. And with Johnson out of the mix (he exhausted his eligibility), the Bobcats will head into this season with a bevy of unanswered questions when it comes to special teams. Texas State inked James Sherman before last season and added Lumi Kaba in its most recent recruiting class. At the moment, it appears that Sherman will take over punting duties, while Kaba will be the Bobcats’ placekicker. Look for this unit to be a work in progress. 

Final Analysis 

Texas State has been knocking on the door for a bowl game during the past two seasons. In fact, the Bobcats were the only 7–5 bowl-eligible team not to receive a postseason invite last season. To secure its first bowl berth in program history, Texas State will likely ask its offense to carry the torch early in the hope that its defense will flourish toward the end of the season. The Bobcats have a favorable home schedule but must face league powers Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and UL Lafayette on the road. If Texas State can sweep its home slate and steal one or two games on the road, Franchione’s team should finally bust down the bowl door.


#113 Texas State Bobcats





HEAD COACH: Dennis Franchione, 29-29 (5 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jeff Conway, Mike Schultz | DEF. COORDINATOR: John Thompson

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 113 Texas State.

Previewing Texas State’s Offense for 2014: 

Now that Texas State has found its quarterback in sophomore Tyler Jones, coach Dennis Franchione has elected to install more of an up-tempo, spread offense in the hopes that it will make the group more prolific this season after ranking 111th nationally in total offense in 2013. The Bobcats are loaded at tailback with junior Robert Lowe (945 yards, nine touchdowns in 2013) leading the backfield. Lowe finished 55 yards short of being the first Texas State tailback to finish with 1,000 yards since 2008.

There are a few questions at wide receiver. The Bobcats bring back Ben Ijah (16 receptions for 207 yards). Ijah will need to step up after the team lost Isaiah Battle and Andy Erickson to graduation. The senior wideout offered a glimpse of his playmaking ability in a 33–31 win over South Alabama last October when he caught a 51-yard pass on 4th-and-24. C.J. Best made the move from running back to slot receiver in the spring.

If the Bobcats want to take a step forward in the Sun Belt, they need their offensive line, which struggled with inexperience last season, to be more consistent. Former Arkansas State offensive line coach Brad Bedell was hired in the offseason.

Previewing Texas State’s Defense for 2014: 

After coordinator Craig Naivar left Texas State for a job at Kentucky in March, Franchione had to scramble to fill the opening quickly. The Bobcats chose someone with experience in the Sun Belt in John Thompson, who coached at Arkansas State last season. Thompson brings a read-and-react scheme, which places the onus on his players to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. 

Texas State has plenty of experienced players to build Thompson’s system around, especially at linebacker. This group is led by senior David Mayo, who was the MVP of the defense last season with 89 tackles despite missing two games.

Questions remain in the secondary and on the defensive line. The one player Thompson can count on in the defensive backfield is senior cornerback — and four-year-starter — Craig Mager. After Mager, it turns into a guessing game with Xavier Daniels, Aaron Matthews and Justin Iwuji all gone from the 2013 roster.

The defensive line hasn’t taken shape yet, either. Franchione made the line his focal point during recruiting, mostly because the Bobcats lost all four starters to graduation. Texas State inked eight defensive linemen, including six from the junior college ranks. The Bobcats need at least one of the transfers, possibly Mershad Dillon or Dondre Elvoid (or both), to offer some size inside.

Previewing Texas State’s Specialists for 2014:

After Will Johnson struggled early in the season (0-of-5 on field goal attempts), Jason Dann took over the placekicking duties. Johnson moved to punter, and the Bobcats never looked back. Dann went 9-of-10 on field goals, including a 41-yard game-winner against South Alabama with four seconds remaining. Mager and receiver Brandon Smith are on hand to handle return duties.

Final Analysis 

This season will mark the first time in the past four years that the Bobcats will have spent back-to-back campaigns in the same conference after moving from the Southland to the WAC to the Sun Belt. Franchione has already said that this is the most FBS-ready roster he’s had at Texas State. The team will again have a backloaded schedule with plenty of tough games in the latter half of the season. The good news is that the Bobcats will play both UL Lafayette and Arkansas State — the Sun Belt co-champions in 2013 — at home.

After Texas State went 6–6 in 2013, a winning season and bowl game would be the next logical step for this program. For that to happen, though, the defense — with a rebuilt line and secondary — will have to overachieve while learning a new system.